Student IT Support in Schools, Good or Bad?

September 30, 2008

Typically schools and school districts across the country have pretty tight budgets.  Now add to the equation a poor economy and many districts are facing a serious budget crisis.  Many school districts now are being forced to adapt and become creative when it comes to IT support.  Cash strapped schools are turning to tech savvy students as a source of IT support in individual buildings.

Using students for IT support is the current trend in education that I have chosen to write about today.  A good article to support this trend comes from The Journal.  In their February magazine The Journal’s cover story was titled “How Geek become Chic” in which John K. Waters writes about school districts that are using students as IT support.

There is never enough tech support in districts or schools.  Using students as tech support helps solve this problem.  Not only are teachers and other school staff receiving better support students who serve on these teams are benefiting as well.  These students are gaining real world job experience, they are becoming leaders, and they are also taking ownership in their school.

Of course there are some draw backs to this type of IT support. Mainly, students serve in this role are given a lot of power and privilege. I could see how some people in schools would cringe at the thought of students having the ability to log in and access every computer in the school.  However, let’s remember that one of the advantages of this type of IT program is that leaders are being developed, and of course there should be an application process to become part of the IT team.

Several examples were mentioned in the article about schools and states that have adopted students into their IT support. One of these states is Mississippi.  In Mississippi the state has sponsored a program called Challenging Regional Educators to Advance Technology (CREATE).  In Colorado, Legend High School in Douglas County opened its doors this year with the goal to use students to help with IT support as well.

Advantages and disadvantages put aside I think this is a trend worth watching especially if schools continue to face budget shortfalls.

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Tools of the week

September 19, 2008

Each week we are given different tools to look at and explore.  Some of these websites I have heard of and use, like Skype, and other I have not.  It is amazing to think how many different tool are out on the web that I am not aware of.  Out of the tools that I have been exposed to so far, two jumped out at me because of the potential they could have in the classrooms.  

Mogulus was the first tool.  Mogulus “gives you everything you need to launch your own LIVE 24/7 television experience.”  I think there is a lot of potential here for teachers to use this with students.  I can see classes using Mogulus as a way to study current events that are happening all around the world.  The potential for real world connections and engagement of students could be very high if used correctly in a classroom.

The second tool that caught my attention was ClassSpot.  One of my dreams as a teacher is to have a laptop in my room for every student.  I would love to become a paperless classroom.  ClassSpot would be a great tool for a teacher in this situation.  According to their website:

“ClassSpot-equipped rooms enable any student to instantly share their work or digital content they find online. They can send files or websites over the network to any large display system in the classroom. Faculty or student can easily interact with the material on the display screen by simply moving their mouse on to a screen to take control.”

Allowing students to have control over the material that is presented in this format could be very powerful.  The down side to ClassSpot is that there is a cost involved to aquier this tool.  


Achieving Success vs. Poor Performance

September 10, 2008

My group came up with these causes and interventions of poor performance in academic and/or corporate settings.  We were trying to come with ideas of how individuals or groups can achieve success.  After thirty minutes of work we have solved all the problems that keep people from succeeding.


The Cognitive Style of Power Point

September 4, 2008

I wrote this blog entry once before but accidently deleted without a backup.  I will try to capture what I said the first time in this entry. 

In his chapter “The Cognitive Style of Power Point: Pitching Out Corrupts Within” from Beautiful Evidence (September, 2003) Edward Tufte lays out an argument that Power Point (PP) is not content oriented or audience oriented (p. 158). There were many points made in this chapter by Tufte that I agree with as a teacher. 

One argument that Tufte makes is that PP “reduces the intellectual level of the content passing through the system” (p. 158). I completely agree with this statement.  Even at the middle school level I have found that when students use PP to present their learnings they don’t fully understand the information they have put on their slides. Why is this? I believe it is because students have become very good at pulling out facts from a textbook and putting then into a bullet point slide with out really thinking about those facts and the importance of the facts to their research questions.  

It is for this reason that I have banned PP from my classroom. Instead I like to give students a bucket list of software choices that they can choose from when it comes time to make a multimedia product in my classroom. This list usually includes software such as Comic Life, iWeb, GarageBand, MediaBlender, and Pages to name a few.  I think these software options allow students to create products that lead higher levels of thinking.  For example if students are making a podcast one of the requirements is that they write a script. When writing a script students have to take their research information and analyze and synthesie it in order for the script to make sense.

Power Point is a boring presentation tool.  Below I have attached two examples of poems that my students wrote using Comic Life.  I think it easy for people to see why I had the students use Comic Life and not PP to present their poems.  These poems are much more engaging and interesting to look at than a Power Point slide.

 

I do disagree some with Tufte when he says that “it is scandalous that there is no coherent software for serious presentations” (p. 183).  This might be true in the business world, but in the school setting I have found that there are plenty of other tools for students to use to create presentations.  Should schools be teaching PP any more? Who knows, but for me and my classes we are going to focus on different tools that promote critical thinking and engagement.